Tuesday, April 28, 2009

American Gods, A Reflection

I've just finished reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods. The book leaves me thinking many things.  This post may contain some slight spoilery.

1. I'm really not sure whether or not I fully understood the book. Some things were explained, others were left up to the imagination. This is fine by me. But what did I glean from the novel? What was the theme? From what I gather, gods need people to believe in them, or they cease to exist. More important is the life of America. Does America change so much, growing in culture and mythos, that it forgets long-forgotten beings?

2. I really liked the style of writing. I felt like I was thrown into a meta-stream-of-conscience/third-person novel. Sure, I was lost on occasion, but I was always intrigued.

3. The fact that I did not, do not, completely understand the book gives me mixed feelings. The concept of magic and mystique was vague, but implied, while grounded in the real world. I felt that this could be explained better or more fully, but Gaiman knows what he's doing.

4. The allusions: there were many, many allusions and references to pop culture and past culture. Several sites, towns, etc really exist here in America, making the novel fun. Also, I felt like many themes and ideas were connected to the Sandman comics, which I've posted on here. Too many to mention, in fact.

5. Mythology: I am a big fan of mythology and folklore. If I ever decided to continue my education, I think I would want to take classes in folklore, fairy tales, myths, and the like. With that, American Gods has extensive characters from many cultures and religions and beliefs from all over the world. I didn't know who some of the characters were supposed to be, but I liked them.

6. Denouement: The conclusion of the story was acceptable. There seemed to be one main plot, the fate of the gods, and a few subplots (Laura, Lakeside, identity), and all were resolved satisfactorily. Though, it did sadden me a bit that Shadow met Easter, while Laura did not.

7. Laura: This was the most confusing character in the book. Laura is Shadow's recently deceased wife. Why does she come back from the dead? How? There were many questions about Laura, but her character was important for the development of Shadow.

There you have it. Some meager reflections on Gaiman's novel. After finishing the book, I thought that it would make for an excellent movie, provided the director, writer, actors, and effects were up to the quality of the book.


marky said...

Was it the Authors preferred text you read?

I've still not finished it yet, I've not had time to read lately, my flat's causing me problems, and work has been full on. By the time I get round to reading I fall asleep after about a page.
I haven't got much to finish though.

There was a part in it about a Cornish woman who came to America after a pretty rough time; she was the one who used to leave milk out at night. Now, although I loved that part, it's hard to see how that translates to other countries. Sure everybody knows about leprechauns, but when you start delving into Cornish mythology, among others, it's hard to see how people who are not from the UK can relate. Unless, like yourself, they’re really into their mythology.

It was a weird mix of Gods we know, and Gods we wouldn’t necessarily know. I especially loved the mix of new Gods. TV, the internet, ect, ect.

Shadows character was brilliantly written. You really felt for him, especially when his wife did what she did. And, his wife and the leprechauns gold coin was for me, all about what happens if the Gods aren’t careful with their power. A kind of higher plain moral thinking thing, if that makes sense.

It would make a cracking movie, but only if they threw cash at it. I watched the BBC’s version of Neverwhere recently, it truly sucked because they never invested a lot of cash in it. It was a made for TV special, but I would have preferred it if they got somebody like Terry Gilliam to do a movie of it.

All in all, I’m very impressed with it. As you say, Gaiman’s writing is fantastic. His word play reeks of pure class. You get a truly gothic feel from his writing; in some parts it’s almost tangible. I just want to go home now and finish it!

Sorry for the super long comment. I get too excited when I talk about books.

logankstewart said...

Marky, I don't think it was the preferred text. I have a mass market paperback edition that looks to be a few years dated. Wikipedia says the preferred ed has 12,000 more words than the previous edition! I'm slightly jealous.

I liked the "Coming to America" parts of the book. Aye, the Cornish woman and such was in there.

Shadow's character still causes me to think, especially on Norse mythology. Maybe once you're finished, you'll have similar thoughts, but I'll leave those unmentioned for now.

Long posts are welcome.